Plucked Chicken

OK, that might be a reference to the owners of our defeated opponents yesterday…

So, we finally won a game away from home. Without conceding, and indeed, with potentially scoring more than just the pant-soiling single strike.

But be honest – who saw that coming?

Secret Agent traipsed up all the way to cotton mill land. Somehow, one suspects the journey back felt a lot shorter…

So despite plenty of us travelling in hope rather than expectation to the North West for the third time out of four away games, Darwen 0 Darwin 1 was a more than pleasant surprise.

The confidence gained from the performance on Tuesday (not the result) meant an unchanged starting eleven for the first time in a while that I can remember.

Robinson replacing Kalambayi on the bench was the right call by NA as both Will and Deji didn’t deserve to make way. Francomb was retained at left back and MOTM Hartigan started again in central midfield.

We started a little on the back foot against a side expecting to bounce straight back to the Championship after a run of four straight wins.

A few misplaced passes and iffy moments were soon forgotten and we came back into the game and it wasn’t too long before the persistence of Kwesi delivered a goal from a tight angle after his initial effort was blocked.

Cue crazy scenes from the travelling hordes at the opposite end of the ground. The rest of the half was fairly even with a couple of half chances at both ends all dealt with comfortably enough by both defences.

Second half opened up a bit as Blackburn, kicking towards their end, looked to equalise. However, we defended from the front and limited them to numerous corners while trying to use the pace of Appiah to counter attack.

On the one occasion that Rovers created a good chance, George Long made a great claw save that Fuller completed by whacking the ball into touch.

Thereafter, we made the necessary changes to maintain our lead with Barcham and Appiah replaced by Forrester and McDonald, the latter ploughing a lone furrow when LTB came off for Robinson to ensure that “what we have, we hold”.

It was pretty comfortable in the end and Forrester had a chance to seal it near the end but hit his shot too hard and high, but it mattered not in the end.

Plus points: a win, on the road, a first at Ewood Park? Clean sheet. Best games by Kwesi, Trotter, Deji and Parrett. George Long, NA said at MTM that we needed a keeper to win us games and his second half save certainly did that.

Minus points: torrential rain on the M6 that came from who knows where. Nothing else really.

The referee’s a: let the game flow and the tackles be made. Seemed to incur the ire of the Rovers faithful, but was pretty consistent and issued yellow cards to both sides as appropriate.

Them: twenty five odd years ago they were PL champs, fifteen years and a bit ago we were having open trials on Wimbledon Common. Nice ground and decent enough fans. Should be there or there about in the final analysis.

Point to ponder: say it quietly, but are things starting to fall into place? Yesterday was a different game from Tuesday against different opponents but we played our own game for long periods and looked reasonably confident doing it.

And another thing – George Francomb. It seems that whenever we have a problem with a position, GF is asked to cover it. For the last two games, he has covered the left back position in the absence of Meades, Kennedy and Owens, yet has not let the side, himself or the fans down at all.

Plenty of people like to knock NA and his penchant for making sure George plays, but so far this season, George has done much better than last season. Will we see him at his best this season?

So was it worth it? behave!

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised after all? Expectations were pretty low before the game, there was some genuine doubt in our collective minds that we would repeat the intensity shown at Gills, that we would revert to all-too familiar lethargy again.

But I like this version of 2017/18 AFC Wimbledon as much as I hate the version we saw at Shrewsbury/Fleetwood/Pompey etc.

And you want us to keep it up, certainly for Friday, because this weekend is a helluva lot nicer than the previous one. Rewind seven days ago, and such was the mood I think somebody from the club might have been hanging from a noose by now.

Reading around, this might have been close to the perfect away performance. Maybe another goal to show for it, and I don’t like the way we defend for the last fifteen minutes as it is. Kwesi showed what he can do, and the only complaint is that Forrester isn’t fit enough yet.

NA was clearly a bit (OK, a lot) happier after this one, as well he should be. Even just by reading those comments of his, it feels that a weight has been lifted off his own personal shoulders.

True, sightings of our heroic sports shrink last Tuesday have been made, and I don’t find it a co-incidence that he gets asked to put his $0.02 in and we cut out the micro-management as a result.

And hey, we’ve got two of our best performances in 2017 in a week, and four points from two games is nothing to be sniffed at.

I found this interesting article from about three and a half years ago on this kind of thing, and while I doubt the club will want to employ one full time (which I think would be a good idea, as it goes), even a sporadic bit of mental health checking clearly goes a long way.

AFCW can be quite insular and self-contained at times – we tend to listen to our own advice a bit too much, which often turns out to be simply what we want to hear. It doesn’t help us one bit, especially when things go wrong…

Whatever has happened, whatever the reason for the turnaround in the last couple of games, I’m damn glad we found it. Maybe Pompey will turn out to be the St. Evenage-esque turning point after all?

It does also prove that football is largely between the ears. I doubt I was alone of fearing the worse when Taylor said before the game about giving Rovers respect, because “giving respect” often turns out to be “shitting yourselves”.

But perhaps even more than the result (as great as it was), the way we took the frustration from Tuesday and carried on where we left off was the most important aspect of yesterday.

We could have treated that game as good as it got, and reverted back to horrible type. But if you said after Pompey that we would get four points from the next two games, you would have guessed scraping past Gills and somehow drawing at Ewood Park would have been the order of the day…

Having a big character like Darius returning helps, and not before time either. Though if Nightingale and Deji start keeping clean sheets, the motivation he brings may have to be off the bench. Ditto Robbo,

I don’t doubt losing him (Darius, that is) has been a big blow, and the lousy start to the season has happened in part because of that. He might almost be like a new signing.

Oh, and Long proved to be a match winner after all. I liked Shea, but our Sheff Utd loanee is definitely an upgrade. And I still don’t get the obsession amongst some people with wanting to re-sign Roos. He’s gone, and I don’t think he was better than our previous #1. Get over it.

Anyway, this is a nice backdrop before the circus arrives on Friday. I might go, I might not, but I find the whole thing a chore to be honest. At least it’s Friday (because Franchise didn’t want any more windowlickers coming down than they would on Saturday), so we can pretty much move on quickly over the weekend if the worst happens.

But somehow, if we continue like we have done since Tuesday, that might not be necessary…

14 thoughts to “Plucked Chicken”

  1. More proof that League 1 is nothing special and we should fear no one.

    And this was no fluke. It was an accomplished performance, well organised, and composed in possession and defence.

    Whisper it, but Ardley has put together a good footballing side.

  2. Credit to Neal for his back to basics campaign, don’t we play well when the instructions are simple.

    Most pleasing sight for me this week was our players getting involved when Lyle got whacked Tuesday evening. Seeing that together with an away win at the title favourites….. seems we’ve remembered who we are.

  3. I’ve been pretty despondent about the start of this season and mostly about the style of the results more than the results themselves. Some of the teamwork I saw in the snippets and clips I’ve seen from yesterday is very encouraging – not so much in terms of quality but the awareness and willingness.

    And for Kwesi to nick a ball, use his attribute and benefit from a little bit of luck = superb and I hope he feels the love as a result because that’s what the fans ask for and he delivered.

    Psychology is hugely important in football and team games in general. NA said he’d got rid of some unsettling elements from the squad but things had looked fairly flat in exchange. Hopefully with the positivity that result will bring the more positive personalities will start to find their space.

  4. Great result, well done NA.
    So please continue continue in the same mold with the same team (any injuries aside) there’s nothing. better for team spirit than to see the same bunch of lads chosen again. And nothing more disheartening than to be dropped ‘in the interests of the club’ however professional you are
    Make the other buggers wait !

  5. Completley agree. This side should not be changed! Will and Deji are the new CB pairing…Im sorry Robbo but its time to wait. Handy to have on the bench like Saturday when we need to see out a game.
    This team must start Friday. The only thing i can see is if Callum Kennedy or Jon Meades return from injury they will fill the LB slot. Neal will not drop George Francomb so it will be Dean Parrett that gets the boot. Also with Jimmy Abdou returning I hope that its Liam Trotter that makes way rather than Anthony Hartigan.

  6. Didn’t expect that. Great anniversary present for me yesterday. Think I agree. Same team including Hartigan. Not like he’s not played them before. Will not be there but hopefully it will be a repeat of last year.

  7. So, here it is then. The week of the “symbolic gap”, “season ticket holders have a right to protest” because they feel sick/couldn’t possibly control themselves etc God knows we hate the bastards but one or two of my Dons brethren need to give their melons a wobble. One in particular I know who takes the “I’m still raging so much I don’t know whether I could contain myself so I won’t be taking my ticket” was seen at their stadium a couple of seasons ago….

    Still, can’t say I don’t enjoy watching the hand wringing.

    And a big doth of the cap to the “management” for appearing to drop the shackles, call Blackburn a “free hit” and take advantage of the traction we found v Gills. Keep it up chaps. Don’t care how ugly the performance Friday-they are there for the taking.

    Have a good week all.

  8. I find the “Hold me back, hold me back” brigade funny as well! Doesn’t seem as much fuss about the MK game this year. Good win on Saturday.

    1. Because the first game at KM was always going to be the headfuck one.

      I won’t say people are bored with playing it, but there’s a lot less about it now.

      1. Just read these last few comments … gone to check and NO email to me from club asking about my season tkt and if I need the seat … so that’s a good 2 seats that will be spare on the night. And I got the one for Gillingham ….

    1. Yep. Got the email the next morning after I posted that question. Released my ticket. Last year my potential son in law used it. I just don’t fancy going… it still annoys me and I can get vocal enough at normal games. As Repd has said things have changed and people have too. Each to his and her own. Just hope and want us to win on Friday.

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